Dear Weekend Jolter,
Friends, acquaintances, readers, be not delusional: There’s no hiding. Oh, you may try it, but you’ll soon be in a to-no-avail world of not-good-enoughery / calling-out / grovel-demanding / mantra-dictating / abasement-expecting / spousal-under-the-bus-throwing by the morally superior Jacobins brandishing their superior moralities. These Red Guards 2.0 — those sensitive, wealthy, brick-throwing, Ivy-pedigreed brats who were so scared on campus that they needed Play Dough and bubbles and puppies to safe-space their started-a-non-profit-when-I-was-12 tuchuses from being triggered by a calmly expressed differing opinion — will rummage through their cell-phone contacts and Facebook “friends” and find you and text you and commence demanding of you a statement of affirmation, a retweet of a hashtag, a signature of a petition, and a videotaped mortification about your sorry racist self.
All that while, the re-educators, echoing their ChiCom cadres from Cultural Revolutions past, prepare your dunce cap. Well, that’s the SOP right now, anyway. Groupthink demands membership. Do read Alexandra DeSanctis’ piece, “Your Silence Is Not Enough.”
But the Left’s view of speech is growing more insidious even than that. As the current social unrest has unfolded, vast numbers of Americans have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the unjust killing of George Floyd — a laudable choice, if a bit surprising in light of the global pandemic — or to engage in vandalism, looting, and arson. Many more have taken to social media to promote Black Lives Matter and fundraise for bail funds to release rioters from jail. Almost uniformly, these culture warriors have begun parroting the troubling notion that “silence is complicity,” demanding that we all vocally sign on to their agenda.
According to this view, if you fail to use your platform to speak out about the progressive issue du jour, you are guilty of perpetrating injustice against the oppressed. It is our civic responsibility and obligation to “educate ourselves” — by which they mean accepting and memorizing the prevailing progressive dogma — and then to repeat what we’ve learned, faithful comrades in their holy war.
On one hand, then, progressives work to ensure that contrary beliefs are disallowed in polite discourse. On the other, they insist that we are compelled by the demands of justice to speak publicly about every social-justice issue. If we articulate a view that challenges the progressive creed, they will drum us out of polite company. If we do not speak at all, we are guilty of sinning by omission.
Friends, acquaintances, readers, we can cower and fret that this is what they mean by “the new normal.” Or we can fight this like the dickens.
Let’s opt for the dickens!
1. We blast the hysterical debate over the use of federal troops to quell riots. From the editorial:
Tom Cotton led the charge for the “Send In the Troops” position in a much-debated op-ed for the New York Times. Cotton is right that federal law gives the president the authority to use military force against domestic disorder. That authority is explicitly laid out in the Constitution, has been invoked and incorporated in federal legislation dating all the way back to George Washington’s presidency, and is currently governed by the Insurrection Act passed in 1807 and signed into law by Thomas Jefferson. Abraham Lincoln used the army to restore order in New York’s draft riots in 1863, dispatching combat veterans directly from the battlefield in Gettysburg. In modern times, the Insurrection Act has been invoked by Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson against resistance to racial integration, and by George H. W. Bush to restore order in the Los Angeles riots in 1992, whose origins were similar to today’s crisis.
There is nothing un-American or “fascist” about such a longstanding backstop against chaos. Our constitution itself was written in response to a rebellion in Massachusetts that had to be suppressed solely by state authorities because the federal government was too weak to help. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were not fascists for using military force when it was necessary to end rebellions and riots.
Reaching for the Army, however, should be a last resort. Prudence counsels against Cotton’s proposal, for now. Where police are unable to handle riots, states can call up the National Guard. Minneapolis, the center of the storm, has done this, with some success. Bill de Blasio has refused to do so, and New York City has paid the price. Only where the Guard proves inadequate to the task should the regular military be called in.
2. The Cancel Culture Red Guards need to be stopped. From the editorial:
There are a few different things at play here. One is the free-floating desire to punish, the glee that certain awful people get from simply taking the opportunity to hurt someone, even an obscure and basically inoffensive someone. (Remember “Has Justine Landed?”) Some of this is cynical young staffers at prestigious institutions such as the New York Times who believe that they can clear room for their own advancement by chasing unhip elders out of the corner offices. Some of this is programmatic and political: There is no aspect of culture that is not to be commandeered by the rioting black-masked socialists — they have attempted to commandeer the protests against police brutality for their own ends, and they will commandeer Paw Patrol, too, if they can. They are vicious totalitarians who will use any means at their disposal, from ruining the lives of obscure fast-food managers to engaging in organized political violence.
It is particularly depressing that institutions ranging from the New York Times to the universities to Franklin Templeton have refused to stand up for themselves, for their employees, and, in the case of the Times and other media, for the principles of free expression and open dialogue that they purport to serve. They believe that they can pacify the mob by throwing it a sacrificial lamb or two. In that, they are mistaken. We hope that Corporate America is neither too stupid to understand that nor too cowardly to act accordingly, but, at the moment, we see little cause for encouragement. We are recreating East Germany’s culture of informers without even having a Soviet-backed dictatorship to blame it on.
The Cancel Counter
NR reporter Zach Evans and NR summer intern John Loftus are honchoing a “Cancel Counter” — you know, toppled statuary and deep-sixed shows (so long Cops) — to keep on top of the Left’s culture bloodletting. Here’s Number 9 from the growing list:
Christene Barberich, editor and co-founder of women’s lifestyle magazine Refinery29, resigned after current and former staffers alleged that they faced discrimination in the workplace.
“I worked at Refinery29 for less than nine months due to a toxic company culture where white women’s egos ruled the near nonexistent editorial processes,” writer Ashley Ford wrote on Twitter. “One of the founders consistently confused myself and one our full-time front desk associates & pay disparity was atrocious.”
“I will be stepping aside in my role at R29 to help diversify our leadership in editorial and ensure this brand and the people it touches can spark a new defining chapter,” Ms. Barberich wrote in a post on Instagram.
Nancy Dubuc, head of Vice Media, which acquired Refinery29 in October, said Barberich’s exit was “an acceleration of a conversation Christene and I have been having since Vice’s acquisition of R29 and she asked that we make the change immediately over the past few days.”
Filling the Void in a World of Intellectual Scarcity, Here Are a Score of NRO Scores
1. When did law and order become a sign of fascism? Rich Lowry attacks the attack. From the column:
Law and order, a favorite Trump theme, is not fascism.
Consider Cotton’s op-ed. The senator called for federal troops to assist in subduing rioters and stipulated that “a majority who seek to protest peacefully shouldn’t be confused with bands of miscreants.” If this is fascism, any effort to stop people burning down buildings now has to be considered dangerous.
Trump’s Rose Garden speech calling for an end to the disorder and for using federal troops if necessary got a similar reaction.
“The fascist speech Donald Trump just delivered verged on a declaration of war against American citizens,” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon said.
The New Republic warned of “an authoritarian gangster state.”
Masha Gessen of The New Yorker wrote of Trump’s subsequent photo-op with a Bible in front of St. John’s Church: “Perhaps he had seen a picture of Hitler in a similar pose” (a photo of Hitler in a similar pose that circulated on social media afterward was a fake).
Trump, like Cotton, distinguished between peaceful protesters and rioters, and surely one purpose of his tough talk on federal troops was to prod governors and mayors to get a better handle on the situation on their own.
2. Dan McLaughlin makes the case for conservative law-enforcement reform. From the analysis:
Small government has never meant “no government.” Conservatives have long argued that governments that try to do too many things end up doing more of them badly. That should apply to policing as well. The core of criminal law is predatory behavior: murder, rape, robbery, fraud, arson, vandalism. The further we get from those things, the less we should involve the cops. Historically, the laws that have been most easily abused in racially disparate ways are vague, low-level crimes: loitering, jaywalking, disturbance of the peace. On the other hand, a great deal of disturbance of public order comes from the homeless population, many of whom are mentally ill and should be locked up not as criminals but for their own protection. Reducing criminalization of some of these offenses is more workable if cities are not teeming with disturbed street-dwellers.
Policing should also focus on protection, not raising revenue for the government. The broad use of civil-asset forfeitures that were meant to be confined to major criminal cases, busting people for selling single cigarettes, and other forms of “revenue policing” would all have been recognized by the Founding Fathers as excessive uses of government power.
Then there’s drugs. Rolling back the laws on hard drugs would be a mistake, but it’s reasonable to rethink the amount of money, time, and manpower that police departments devote to low-level drug crime. And at a minimum, Congress should give states more leeway to experiment with decriminalizing marijuana, given the thorny conflicts that have developed between state and federal laws on the issue.
Proposals to “demilitarize” the police should be on the table, but they should be carefully designed: There is a big difference between police departments’ having military vehicles and cops wearing riot helmets. Riot gear is, after all, designed to discourage police officers from seeing their guns as the only line of defense against death or severe injury from thrown bricks and bottles.
3. David Harsanyi considers how pick-a-knee rings hollow. From the piece:
‘Pick a knee,” says CNN’s S. E. Cupp, “The one that knelt on a neck or the one that knelt to try to prevent it.” This kind of ugly false choice — either you adopt my favored form of political protest or you support murder! — is meant to bully you into participating in groupthink. Worse, it’s meant to shame the target of Cupp’s exhortation into taking ownership of racism, an evil that may have nothing to do with him.
I find the abuse of black civilians — or, though this is apparently a provocation, any civilians — by the police abhorrent. More than any other group in American life, cops, empowered by the state to use force, have special responsibility to protect life and adhere to the law. But I am no more liable for the actions of Derek Chauvin than is S. E. Cupp or Al Sharpton. I have nothing to confess. The color of my skin is not an indictment of my morality, nor does it strip me of my agency.
If senators want to kneel for nine minutes as an act of contrition, that’s their choice. It is my choice to be embarrassed for them. There is a yawning difference between having a desire to fix the wrongs of the past and taking responsibility for them. Kneeling in front of your fellow citizens in cult-like displays of self-flagellation, the kind we saw in Bethesda and North Carolina, where white people begged for absolution while washing the feet of their black neighbors, is antithetical to the egalitarian ideals we should be striving to achieve.
4. Andy McCarthy makes note of the obvious: Washington can’t handle its own law-enforcement responsibilities but is prepped to tell the rest of American just how to reform the Thin Blue Line. From the analysis:
The FISA court recently found federal intelligence agencies guilty of an “institutional lack of candor” in dealing with the tribunal. That conclusion has only been bolstered by Justice Department reports outlining stunning abuses of power by the FBI, serial lying and leaking by top officials, fabrication of evidence, and investigations launched on a dearth of predication and furthered by entrapment tactics and perjury traps. We never did get to the bottom of the Justice Department’s “Fast and Furious” scandal, in which the ATF allowed illegal firearms transfers into Mexico — evidently hoping to fuel a political narrative against the Second Amendment but succeeding only in fueling violent Mexican gang crime that claimed the life of a border-patrol agent. A federal appeals court echoed a district judge in New Orleans, who was appalled when Obama Justice Department lawyers anonymously led a race-baiting press campaign to undermine the trial rights of indicted police officers and then misled and stonewalled investigators who tried to find out what happened. And speaking of misleading and stonewalling, they explain why we never got accountability for the bare-knuckles tactics the IRS used to harass conservative groups.
That’s just a thumbnail sketch. We could go on. I’d rather not go on, because these incidents sully the reputations of thousands of agents who go about their work honorably, day in and day out. But these incidents represent management failures, misfeasance and malfeasance at the high echelons of federal law enforcement. It is thus doubly important to highlight them because, in the wake of the George Floyd killing and the uproar that followed, the federal government is now presuming to dictate how state and local police forces must do their jobs.
5. Drew Brees’ seven-act apology for offending the woke by citing patriotism was tough to watch. Kyle Smith looks at the groveling that empowered his detractors. From the commentary:
Much of this has been nearly as senseless, emotion-driven, and inane as the actual burning, looting, and destroying of urban neighborhoods. Attacking Drew Brees for expressing widely held patriotic beliefs was about as rational as setting fire to a gas station. Brees should have realized this, taken a deep breath, and reacted in the following way: by doing nothing. Brees should have let his original statement stand. “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America,” was what he said, adding that thinking about the flag and the national anthem “brings me to tears thinking about all that’s been sacrificed. Not just those in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the ’60s and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point.” Brees said paying respect to the flag “shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better, and that we are all part of the solution.”
Stirring words, and nothing inflammatory about them. Tony Dungy chimed in, “Drew Brees can’t be afraid to say that and we can’t be afraid to say ‘Okay, I don’t agree with you but let’s talk about this.’ We can’t just say anytime something happens we don’t agree with, ‘Hey I’m done with that and this person.’ That doesn’t make sense.”
Brees made his situation worse by apologizing for these remarks, which only turned up the outrage. The quarterback’s ritual groveling simply made his detractors more powerful. They demanded further groveling, and he complied. Now he has stamped himself forever as an antagonist to both sides of the culture war. The radical Left will never forgive him for his original statement for daring to question woke wisdom, while the majority who love this country and its symbols can never unsee his pathetic, craven cringing in the face of the mob.
6. Victor Davis Hanson calls out the POTUS attacks by retired and politicized generals. From the essay:
So the issue of proper military conduct versus First Amendment rights for retired generals remains nebulous. Perhaps in such a void, a confused public could at least expect four rules of general decorum and common courtesy when our top retired military leaders go on the attack against a sitting president.
One, a retired general need not under any circumstances stoop to invoke Nazi Germany, Hitler, or Fascism to criticize the current commander in chief.
Two, any disparagement should not hint at any active resistance to, much less the removal of, an elected president other than through constitutionally mandated elections.
Three, the condemnation should rest on clear factual evidence, not emotive anger or partisan disagreement.
Four, there should be no semblance of coordination among retired military officers. They should avoid even the inadvertent appearance of a sudden chorus of like-minded retired military officers acting in concert to attack the policies of their current president with whom they disagree, and whom they disparage in personal terms.
Indeed, to do otherwise, whether by intent or inference, would suggest a harmonized effort to nullify the authority of an elected president — a dangerous escalation to extra-legal efforts that would be a first in American history.
Unfortunately, in this age of dissension, a number of our most esteemed retired generals and admirals, many of them heroic combat veterans, in their fury at President Trump, have not met these modest ethical expectations. However well-meaning, they seem to have little inkling of how their advocacy and speech have only further polarized a divided country whose streets are currently in chaos.
7. Mackubin Owens seconds the VDH motion on the expectations of military leaders.
Concerns about the politicization of the military require some unpacking. High-ranking military positions are inherently “political.” Military officers are expected to offer their advice on matters of strategy and policy. That advice may be accepted or rejected. But the military has no right to “demand” that its advice be accepted. Accordingly, it is inevitable that military leaders will be linked to the policies that they advocated and/or executed, whether they agreed with them or not. General William Westmoreland will be forever linked to Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam policy. General David Petraeus will always be inextricably bound to George Bush’s Iraq policy.
The act of resignation by a senior military officer, furthermore, is itself a political act. The idea that officers should resign when their advice is not accepted is based on a misreading of H. R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, a misreading that is common in the military, reinforcing the belief that officers should advocate particular policies rather than simply serve in their traditional advisory roles.
According to this misreading, the Joint Chiefs of Staff should have more openly voiced their opposition to the Johnson administration’s strategy of gradualism in Vietnam and then resigned rather than carry out the policy. But the book argues no such thing. Instead, it contends that the Joint Chiefs should have: (1) spoken up forcefully in private to their superiors and candidly in testimony to Congress when asked specifically for their personal views; and (2) they should have corrected misrepresentations of those views in private meetings with members of Congress. He neither says nor implies that the chiefs should have obstructed President Johnson’s orders and policies by leaks, public statements, or by resignation.
8. Robert VerBruggen checks out the studies and finds that when the police stop policing, the body count skyrockets. From the Corner post:
In a piece last week, I mentioned a forthcoming study by Tanaya Devi and Roland Fryer about what happens when cops stop doing their jobs, specifically in the wake of viral incidents such as the one in Ferguson, Mo., a few years back. That study is now available in its entirety.
Basically, it looks at what happens when federal or state authorities investigate police departments accused of having a “pattern or practice” of violating civilians’ rights. The good news is that these investigations usually lead to a measurable decrease in crime, including homicides.
The bad news is that, after five of the 27 investigations Devi and Fryer looked at closely, crime went up instead. And it turns out that those five investigations were the ones “preceded by ‘viral’ incidents of deadly force,” specifically “the deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, MD, Laquan McDonald in Chicago, IL, Timothy Thomas in Cincinnati, OH, Tyisha Miller in Riverside, CA, and Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.” The authors “estimate that these investigations caused almost 900 excess homicides and almost 34,000 excess felonies.” For comparison, American cops kill about 1,000 civilians — in total, throughout the country — each year.
9. Madeleine Kearns profiles author J.K. Rowling’s refusal to genuflect to the Trans Gods (Or Goddesses? Or Godx?). From the piece:
It’s amazing what passes for news these days. J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, suggested that only women menstruate and then, when prompted, clarified that she wasn’t fully on board the trans train. “I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them,” she tweeted. “I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans.” But apostatizing sex? No can do — no apologies.
If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.
As she no doubt fully expected, Twitter talking heads soon descended in faux outrage as progressive outlets competed for the most question-begging headline. Vanity Fair: “J. K. Rowling Faces Backlash After Transphobic Tweets.” The New York Times: “J. K. Rowling Tweets Seen as Anti-Transgender Prompt Backlash.” NBC News: “J. K. Rowling accused of transphobia after mocking ‘people who menstruate’ headline.” But “backlash” from, “seen” by, and “accused” by whom?
Certainly, the answer is not the general public, who tend not to have such a strong reaction to an assertion of material reality. But activists are different. Consider, for instance, Ben O’Keefe, a senior creative producer for the Elizabeth Warren campaign — whom you’ve probably never heard of — who wrote of Rowling:
This woman is complete scum. Shut the f*** up you transphobic f***. You don’t know or love any trans people if you won’t even acknowledge their existence. Thanks for ruining the books of my childhood. Just stop talking. We know you’re a TERF. You don’t need to keep doing this.
BONUS: Maddy doubles down and back and collects some examples of support for Rowling. From the piece:
Since the mainstream media is intent on reporting only one side of the reaction to Rowling’s essay, I have collected testimonies from those who have similar concerns and who are grateful to her for taking a stand.
First, trans people. Debbie Hayton, a trans woman, told me of the “need to listen” to Rowling. “Trans activism has overreached with endless demands, always taking and never giving,” Hayton said. “The time has come for us to stop and start thinking about others as well as ourselves.” Scott Newgent, a trans man, told me of his agreement as well. “Medical transition creates an illusion of the opposite sex and some find comfort in that. What it does not do is change biology. We cannot get to a place in our society where feelings trump facts, and that is currently what is happening within the transgender debate,” Newgent said.
Second, women and feminists. In her essay, J. K. Rowling reiterated her support for Maya Forstater, a tax expert, fired for tweeting her belief in biological sex. Forstater told me, “I am immensely grateful to J. K. Rowling for her courage and her voice. . . . It is lonely and scary to stand up on your own.” In her essay, Rowling mentions Magdalen Burns, a lesbian feminist based in Scotland who sadly died last year, and who co-founded the grassroots movement For Women Scotland, which fights to hold the Scottish government accountable for relentlessly attempting to erode women’s sex-based rights and protections. A spokesperson for the organization told me their work is often “exhausting and demoralizing” and cited the draft “Hate Crimes bill” introduced in April which “could see women imprisoned for speaking biological truths if someone claims to find it offensive.” (Yes, you read that correctly.) The women at For Women Scotland were “so grateful” and “a little tearful” reading her contribution as well as “incredibly touched that she mentioned [Magdalen] in such a personal essay.”
10. Dmitri Solzhenitsyn reports on spousal consequences in the Cancel Culture. From the Corner post:
If things weren’t already chaotic enough, Serbian soccer player Aleksandar Katai was released from the Los Angeles Galaxy last Friday following a day of indignant protests by fans outside Dignity Health Sports Park. What was Katai’s great offense? Being married to Tea Katai, who made Instagram posts comparing police-brutality protestors to cattle, called for violent action against them (“shoot the s***s”), and captioned an image of a supposed looter carrying off a pair of sneakers with “Black Nikes Matter.” Days before releasing Katai, the LA Galaxy had requested the removal of his wife’s posts and had made a statement condemning “racism of any kind, including that which suggests violence or seeks to demean the efforts of those in pursuit of social equity.” Mrs. Katai subsequently took down the posts, and Mr. Katai issued a personal apology in which he rebuked his wife’s insensitivity. But these actions were not enough; Katai was still booted for his wife’s transgression.
To be sure, Tea Katai is a grown woman, and she should have thought twice before engaging in a national controversy in such a bloodthirsty and insensitive manner. And one may certainly argue that irresponsible actions should be met with harsh social consequences. But since when do we punish people so dismissively — LA Galaxy president Chris Klein stated: “the decision … was not a difficult one” — due to actions which are not their own? It would come as a great surprise if an athlete were released because his wife committed assault, or even murder. But being married to someone who has offensive opinions? Woke culture has decreed: “Pack your bags, bud.”
11. Sally Satel straightjackets the public-health professionals et al who declared riots and protests trumped COVID-19 fears. From the piece:
Overnight, the risk calculus changed. Instead of expert advice on the danger of exposure to coronavirus when, say, riding a subway, sending your kid to camp, or dining out, now the social value of the undertaking became part of the public-health equation. The risk of thousands of marchers wedged together (many masked but many not) spreading the virus by singing and chanting was suddenly acceptable in the eyes of outspoken members of the public-health establishment.
Flashback to April, when public-health experts were quick to criticize Governors Ron DeSantis of Florida and Brian Kemp of Georgia for easing lockdowns. Apparently, the two politicians’ values of salvaging the economy and relieving social isolation, both causes of significant emotional distress, failed to “greatly exceed the harms of the virus.” Compared with marching for social justice, they weren’t deemed as worthy.
But the problem goes deeper than a double standard. It belies a pernicious mission creep whereby public-health experts project their own social values onto risk assessment. The origins of the mission, however, are less confused. They recall the spirit of the 19th-century German pathologist, physician, and statesman Rudolf Virchow. He called physicians the “natural attorneys of the poor.” But it was the effects that social conditions such as poverty and squalor had on fitness and health that concerned him as a pathologist and doctor.
12. The great Eric Grover sings the praises of the e-buck. From the commentary:
Rather than seeing digital dollars as a threat, economic policymakers should embrace them as a means of expanding access to the greenback globally. With 2.6 billion users, Facebook is well-positioned to encourage the use of Libra dollars on and off its platform. Visa, the world’s largest retail-payment network, could support electronic dollars issued by banks and facilitate use worldwide. These coins would work in tandem with rather than against the dollar.
Since the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement, the dollar has been the world’s preeminent currency. It dominates foreign-exchange reserves, foreign-currency-denominated debt, foreign-exchange turnover, and cross-border interbank payments.
The dollar accounted for 61 percent of the world’s foreign-exchange currency reserves as of the fourth quarter of last year, far surpassing the euro’s 21 percent share and the Chinese renminbi’s paltry 2 percent. A whopping 74 percent of the $16 trillion in foreign-currency debt is denominated in dollars, and most international trade, including oil, is invoiced in dollars.
13. Public-school czars are demanding federal billions because of Coronavirus, but Frederick M. Hess and Matthew Rice hear the boys crying wolf. From the analysis:
And yet, given how familiar these complaints are, it’s difficult to take at face value the catalogue of demands — or the threats of dire consequences. More than a year before the coronavirus crisis, United Teachers Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl was urging his teachers to strike in order “to get the basics for [Los Angeles] students.” Of course, Caputo-Pearl neglected to mention that the Los Angeles Unified School District was spending $18,788 per student, average teacher pay in Los Angeles was $78,962, and many of the district’s frustrations were due to UTLA’s unwillingness to adjust employee benefits, which had grown an astounding 138 percent between 2001 and 2016.
In 2019, the American Federation of Teachers launched their “Fund Our Future” campaign, promising to take on “years of disinvestment [that] have hurt our students and faculty and led to overcrowded classrooms . . . and unhealthy, unsafe environments.” Taxpayers might have been surprised to learn that a 27 percent increase in real (after-inflation) per-pupil spending between 2000 and 2016 constituted “years of disinvestment.” (While 2016 is the last year for which national data are available, a robust economy and historically low unemployment during 2017-2019 meant that those were good years for state budgets.) Meanwhile, the U.S. today boasts a teacher for every 15 students, and a school staff member for every eight — none of which suggests classrooms are “overcrowded” (unless it’s because staff keep bumping into one another).
In May, New York City schools chancellor Richard Carranza decried the state of New York City’s education budget, telling city-council members, “We are cutting the bone. There is no fat to cut, no meat to cut.” Carranza failed to mention that New York City is one of the highest-spending school systems in the country — spending an extraordinary $28,900 per student in 2019, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office. Shortly after Carranza’s histrionics, it was reported that the administration had added 340 positions to the central bureaucracy and borough offices in 2019.
14. Jimmy Quinn — covering the release of a massive report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s Alex Joske — clues us in on Red China’s concerted effort at infiltrating democracies. From the piece:
United Front groups also exert influence in higher education through Confucius Institutes and Chinese student groups. Chinese Students and Scholars associations, writes Joske, “are the primary platform for United Front work on overseas students. Most CSSAs operate under the guidance of Chinese embassies and consulates.”
Illegal technology transfers are facilitated by the United Front’s Thousand Talents Program and professional associations overseas. And United Front–linked civil-society groups report back to UFWD with the names of public figures, students, and scientists abroad.
The challenge to Western democracies is twofold. As the report shows, the United Front network enjoys a reach that spans foreign countries, including every Five Eyes member. Tracking down and containing these groups is a difficult task. At the same time, attempts to curb CCP influence must respect the rights to which people in these countries are entitled.
Joske recommends that policymakers take care to distinguish between the CCP, Chinese citizens, and members of ethnic Chinese communities as they work to cast a light on United Front groups. He urges governments protect students and ethnic Chinese individuals from surveillance and harassment by United Front groups, not alienate them. Still, measures targeting Chinese students and researchers remain a topic of fierce debate and often elicit accusations of racism.
RELATED: Here’s the ASPI report.
15. Therese Shaheen tells the story of Canada’s diminishing attitude toward Red China. From the piece:
Aside from mishandling COVID-19, Canadians also are fed up with China over another specific matter. In a high-profile case that has seized the nation, two Canadian expatriates are being held in prisons in China as hostages of the government, in reaction to the arrest on December 1, 2018, at Vancouver’s airport of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom behemoth Huawei.
The United States government had indicted Ms. Meng for fraud and other charges connected with Huawei’s alleged dealings with Iran to contravene U.S. sanctions. The U.S. seeks her extradition from Canada to face those charges, which are just one element in Washington’s global campaign against Huawei on national-security, intellectual-property, and other concerns. In addition to being a senior Huawei executive, Ms. Meng is a daughter of Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei.
Ten days after Ms. Meng’s arrest, Michael Kovrig, a former Canadian diplomat who had been posted to Hong Kong and Beijing and who now works for the International Crisis Group, was detained in Beijing. On the same day, the Chinese government detained Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who has lived and worked in North Korea and now runs a tourism and cultural exchange service at the China–North Korea border.
“The two Michaels” as they have come to be known across Canada, have captured the public’s attention. The men have been charged with espionage, they are being held incommunicado, and they have not been able to receive visitors or spend any meaningful time with their families. Media organizations are keeping hostage watch calendars in the same way U.S. media did during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979–1980.
16. Insanity at the Poetry Foundation, you say? We do. Kyle Smith explains. From the piece:
On June 3 the Poetry Foundation announced on its website that it and its periodical Poetry magazine “stand in solidarity with the Black community, and denounce injustice and systemic racism.” Allowing that poets have not yet succeeded in eradicating “institutional racism,” it added, “We acknowledge that real change takes time and dedication, and we are committed to making this a priority.” It concluded on a helpful note: “We believe in the strength and power of poetry to uplift in times of despair, and to empower and amplify the voices of this time, this moment.”
If you’re thinking that no one could possibly disagree with any of that, you’re underestimating just how disagreeable people are right now. Capillary-exploding fury greeted the statement above, via an open letter dated June 6 and signed by 1,800 people you’ve never heard of. Scores of them are remarkably ungrateful previous or current recipients of the foundation’s largesse. This virtual mob of versifiers, subscribers to Poetry magazine, and assorted random worked-up individuals inveighed against the foundation’s brief note for being wholly inadequate to the task of ending racism, calling it “an insult to the lives and families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other victims of the racist institution of police and white supremacy” as well as “an insult to the lives of your neighbors who have been targeted, brutalized, terrorized, and detained by the Chicago Police.” Further, the letter proclaimed that “the watery vagaries of this statement are, ultimately, a violence.” Threatening to withhold its submissions from Poetry magazine, the mob of signatories issued a list of five demands, not counting its call for the immediate resignation of President Henry Bienen and board of trustees chair Willard Bunn III.
In the course of denouncing the Poetry Foundation for not “creating a world that is just and affirming for people of color, disabled people, trans people, queer people, and immigrants,” the authors of the letter offered a hint that the ideal way to placate them would be to turn over all of its money to them: “Ultimately, we dream of a world in which the massive wealth hoarding that underlies the Foundation’s work would be replaced by the redistribution of every cent to those whose labor amassed those funds,” read the letter. Failing that, the angry poets suggested they might settle for “large contributions to organizations” of which they approved, together with “redistribution of wealth toward efforts fostering social justice.”
17. Fred Fleitz proposes next steps for the Trump administration’s Iran policy. From the beginning of the analysis:
President Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal struck by the Obama administration with Iran appears to be a significant success.
This success is seen in several ways: The withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has isolated Iran and has denied the mullahs the revenue they had been spending on their military, missile development, and the nuclear program. U.S. sanctions reinstated as a result of the withdrawal are also denying the Iranian regime funds to support terrorists and proxies, and may be forcing Tehran to pull its troops from Syria. Further, U.S. withdrawal has given the administration leverage to negotiate a new agreement that addresses the full range of threats Iran poses to the Middle East and the world. While Iran is currently refusing to discuss a new agreement, mounting evidence of Iranian cheating on the JCPOA plus a surge in regime-sponsored violent provocations against U.S. forces in the region have driven once-panicky European states closer to Trump’s approach.
Contrary to the evidence, the president’s critics insist his JCPOA withdrawal has been a failure. They do so on the grounds that there has been no movement on negotiating a better deal and that Iran’s belligerent behavior worsened after the U.S pulled out of the agreement. Many critics, already apologists for the mullahs, have become more open about it, claiming that the regime was in compliance with the nuclear deal and blaming Trump for provoking the ayatollahs to ramp up their nuclear program after the U.S. withdrawal.
Claims that Iran has complied with the JCPOA are inaccurate and false. Moreover, the regime’s reactions were expected consequences of Trump’s decision and do not discredit the withdrawal.
18. As statues of Lincoln and Churchill are defaced and those of Southern generals toppled, Cameron Hilditch deciphers the theology of the “New Iconoclasts.” From the essay:
The public controversy concerning the statues is, essentially, a theological problem. In the Church of Grievance-Driven Collective Identity, there is original sin, but no mechanism for atonement. Nothing separates this new religion from the old more clearly than the words attributed to Christ on the cross in John 19:30: “It is finished.” According to the canons of the new faith, there is no point at which the sinner is released from the claims of the victim. For after all has been conceded to the aggrieved party, we will be told, as surely as the night follows the day, that we “still have a long way to go.” That is to say, unless and until the oppressed decide of their own volition that their oppressors have been obedient enough to receive absolution, they should enjoy a monopoly on speech and violence. As to what qualifies a person for absolution in any final sense, this is never made clear. There is no limiting principle on the wrath of the afflicted, no criterion for forgiveness to circumscribe the boundaries of destruction.
This is why statues are problematic to such people. Building a statue is an act of forgiveness. When we build a statue, we cannot help but bring the whole life of the subject into the public square for examination. We ask our compatriots to remember the person long after their death and to think upon their deeds long after most of our own have faded into the mists of time. But clearly not every deed is pleasant to remember. Who, after all, would choose to have all his actions and his likeness carved into stone for posterity to inspect and interrogate? The praise of any person who lived under the microscope of history necessitates a passing over of their sins. A line must be drawn to limit the claims of public outrage, as bright and red as the blood on the doorposts of the Hebrews in Egypt. Some acts and undertakings, we decide, are so great that they mark a definite point at which mocking and scorn must give way to simple gratitude. This idea is anathema to the iconoclasts. There is no cross they could nail their opponents to that would ever cleanse the guilty of their impurity; nothing in the lives of the Last Lion or the Great Emancipator that make up for the fact that, like countless others, they once ate of the tree of the knowledge of black and white. Fall once and damnation is unavoidable. Dante placed a sign above the entrance to Hell bearing the words “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.” The new iconoclasts, not content with family-run businesses and grocery stores, have seemingly looted the underworld as well, stealing his sign and placing it over Earth. If you can rid the world of the Nazis or the Confederacy and still be denounced as a moral failure, abandoning hope might be your best option.
19. Robert Cherry wonders how Black Lives Matters to blacks who depend on neighborhood police presence for safety. From the piece:
Building effective community-police relationships is crucial to lowering homicide rates and reducing the significant racial bias in nonlethal use of force. Despite the current rhetoric, many recent reforms have been quite effective. While police misconduct (and biases) can never be completely eliminated, we can learn from cities where police-community relations are strong.
Criminologist David Kennedy guided Pittsburgh’s launching of a new initiative that better modeled the focused deterrence approach he pioneered and implemented in a number of cities, including Boston. Through community leaders and other neighborhood informants, Pittsburgh’s Group Violence Intervention Unit (GVI) identified more than 500 high-risk offenders. Once a high-risk offencer is identified, an officer will visit the offender as well as his or her parents or grandparents. At the meeting, the visiting officer says, “We know what’s going on. You — or your son or grandson — is a shooter.”
If the offender continues to commit crimes, Pittsburgh deals with him harshly. However, if he wishes to turn his life around, services are provided. The GVI unit works with job-training and placement programs, local faith-based organizations, mental-health experts, and multiple family- and housing-related services to help suspects change their lives — “to leave the life.” GVI volunteer coordinator Cornell Jones noted that tattoo-removal services are also offered if needed, because “it’s hard to get any job if you have ‘thug life’ tattooed on your forehead.”
20. Zach Evans finds the mindset of his alma mater, the uber-lefty Oberlin College, to pervade in America’s principle institutions. From the essay:
All across the country, graduates of elite colleges with monolithic progressive politics — such as the one I attended — have finally grown up. The progressive children of the overclass have found their professional footing and brought their “Oberlin mentality” into the workplace. Unfortunately, that mentality has spread far beyond the Times. The “trigger” was the death of George Floyd, killed by a police officer during his arrest. Floyd deserves to be remembered as a victim, even a symbol, of police brutality. He also deserves better than to be remembered in bouts of virtue-signaling by countless corporations, nonprofit institutions, and ordinary Americans.
Corporations and other institutions seem to be combining such gestures with some actions that could actually do some good. LEGO, for example, is donating millions of dollars to charities and nonprofits that focus on helping disadvantaged African Americans. At the same time, however, LEGO has announced it will stop advertising for LEGO sets that include any figures related to police or the White House, but without taking those sets off store shelves. This insults the intelligence of the children for whom LEGO sets are made, not to mention that of police officers and anti-police activists simultaneously.
Lights. Camera. Pundit!
1. Armond White knocks the attempts to cancel Gone with the Wind. From the piece:
Thirties Hollywood was so much more richly imaginative than today’s that dramas such as Gone with the Wind and Make Way for Tomorrow could also be constructed like screwball comedies. Viewers of mature intelligence and life experience appreciated the distinction. Only fools think Gone with the Wind glorifies the Confederacy. Scarlett, the greatest female character in American movies (unforgettably portrayed by Vivien Leigh), is so apolitical that she’s both likable and identifiable, which makes her an astonishing and instructive figure. When her romantic match Rhett Butler rousts the Ku Klux Klan, she couldn’t care less; she wants money and comfort — whatever it takes, which makes her exercise of liberty quintessentially American. She’s appealing and appalling, a fascinating, recognizable mirror.
In an essay praising GWTW as her favorite movie, Ellen Willis, the singular feminist writer, once wrote, “Fascination with movie heroines was part of female culture when I was growing up. I learned about being a teenager from rock and roll, but I learned about being a woman from the movies.” Millennial culture rarely teaches audiences about being human; media indoctrination is only about being a political functionary. To deny Scarlett is to deny ourselves, our human, national truth. And Mammy (given vivid depth by Hattie McDaniel) always sees right through her — and says so. Mammy’s moral consciousness is a more edifying contribution to American culture than the miseries that Ridley’s 12 Years inflicted upon filmgoers, debasing them while creating a culture of strife and inconsolable anger. (We all should respect McDaniel’s moving Oscar acceptance speech, apparently made under stress but coming from her heart. McDaniel knew more than any BLM poseur.)
2. Kyle Smith catches The King of Staten Island and finds Pete Davison still charmless. And worse. From the review:
Childish and manic on SNL, Davidson plays a sullen depressive in the film, which repeatedly seeks to find comic mileage in scenes built around other characters trying to be nice as he responds with uncalled-for nastiness. He’s meant to be anarchically funny, but instead he’s a typical narcissistic adolescent bore. The King of Staten Island, which is being released via video on demand in lieu of a theatrical rollout, is the worst of the six films directed by Judd Apatow (who, along with Davidson, is one of the three writers of the script). Apatow’s instinct to dig into people’s life stories looking for material is a good one, but this movie is merely the dung in the bildungsroman.
Davidson plays Scott, the aimless 24-year-old son of a New York City firefighter killed in action (and named in honor of the actor’s own father Scott, himself a firefighter who died helping others on 9/11). Scott’s body is covered with tattoos that make him look like a survivor of a paintball attack, and his extremely modest goal in life is to become a tattoo artist himself, although his own efforts at design are so awful that only his dumbest friend will let Scott practice on him. A drab and rubbishy Staten Island is the objective correlative of his misery; we’re told it’s the only place New Jersey looks down on. Has anyone involved with this film heard the way New Jerseyans talk about the South, the Midwest, upper New England, the Southwest, or the Great Plains states? Staten Islanders, being New Yorkers, look down on all those places, too. S.I. and N.J. share a tendency to be cocky and aggrieved at the same time, and it’s not necessarily a winning comic attitude.
Save the Date Buckley Fans
The National Review Institute’s annual William F. Buckley Jr. Prize Dinner will take place this October 5th in NYC, with James Buckley and Virginia James being honored. To found out more click here.
1. On The McCarthy Report, Andy and Rich discuss the many ideas that have sprung up around police reform, the latest developments in the Flynn case, and more. Listen here.
2. On Radio Free California, David and Will scope out California Democratic leaders scrambling to appease public outrage over the police killing of George Floyd, proposing “solutions” that neatly avoid touching the Left’s unbridled affection for government unions, including police unions. Plus they discuss how Californians are lifting the COVID lockdown without permission. You gotta listen, right here.
3. On a special episode of The Editors, Rich interviews well-known writer and author Heather MacDonald about policing policies and much more. Listen here.
4. On the “regular” weekly episode of The Editors — Number 225 if you are keeping track — Rich, Charlie, and Jim discuss the calls around the country for disbanding police forces, the New York Times revolt, and the eerily religious quality of the recent protests. Get the wisdom here.
5. On Episode 20 of The Victor Davis Hanson Podcast, VDH discusses the media coming out unabashedly Left, the nexus of riots and coronavirus, the generals versus Trump, China — No More Mr. Nice Commie, and much more. Plug in the headphones and listen here.
6. On the new episode of The Bookmonger, John J. Miller is joined by Zena Hitz to discuss her book, Lost in Thought. Catch it here.
7. And then on The Great Books, JJM is joined by Dutton Kearney of Hillsdale College to discuss James Joyce’s Ulysses. Do listen, here.
8. On Episode 268 of Mad Dogs and Englishmen, Kevin and Charlie discuss police slashing tires and Guitar Center’s hypocritical new boycotting stance. Catch the program here.
9. On Radio Free California, David and Will scope out California Democratic leaders scrambling to appease public outrage over the police killing of George Floyd, proposing “solutions’ that neatly avoid touching the Left’s unbridled affection for government unions, including police unions. Plus they discuss how Californians are lifting the COVID lockdown without permission. You gotta listen, right here.
Fight House Comes to Your House
Our pal Tevi Troy’s new book, Fight House: Rivalries in the White House, from Truman to Trump, will be the subject of a virtual discussion on June 17, and if you’d like to catch Double T talking up his opus, Register here.
(Check out Rachel Curries’ review of Fight House in the May 20 issue of NR.)
1. At Law & Liberty, William Smith considers the essence of Antifa. From the essay:
With Rousseauism, we see a window into the modern progressive revolutionary mindset and Antifa. Like the Jacobins, who were so much influenced by Rousseau, Antifa objects to institutions that, they believe, are repressing the downtrodden. “Institutional racism” must be overcome, they say, by attacking those who protect it, such as the police. Antifa does not offer a platform of positive change. In the fashion of Robespierre, they seek to overthrow “the privileged” and they assume that this violence and destruction will inflame an uprising that will usher in a pure democracy of equality.
Revolutionaries of this type are persuaded of their own innate virtue, justifying violent antinomian acts because they are tearing down artificial and conspiratorial institutions. Western civilization itself is a gigantic conspiracy against “the people.” In the view of Antifa, traditionally powerful groups, such as white men and capitalists, conspire to suppress the natural nobility of underrepresented citizens.
Where once virtue was bound up with self-control, virtue is now found in humanitarian rioting against traditional institutions. Therefore, a signature feature of this revolutionary outlook is the worship of rogues. Society is broken down into two groups, one virtuous and one retrograde: criminals willing to attack and destroy are sublime while those who defend tradition or the status quo, such as the police, are wicked. The gangster regalia and black outfits of Antifa signal their virtue, not their vice.
In his time, Rousseau pointed to the monarchy, clergy, and aristocracy as the conspirators against the popular will. But modern progressives view traditional institutions as illegitimate because they view Western history as a tyranny of race, gender, and class. Even non-violent progressives generally accept the revolutionary premise that traditional hierarchies need to be torn down and replaced with rule by “woke” underrepresented groups. California Governor Gavin Newsom was a pitch perfect Rousseauist when he recently said that the violent riots were not caused by individuals; instead he insisted, “Our institutions are responsible.” Many progressives are ambivalent about criticizing the violence of Antifa because they retain this sympathetic worldview. While all on the left are not active in violent revolution, many liberal mayors and governors struggle to condemn it outright. Might that be because of shared sympathy
2. At The Imaginative Conservative, the prolific and wise Bradley Birzer treats us to a lesson of that oddest of entities, the American Whig Party. From the article:
Senator Daniel Webster offered the swiftest and most comprehensive response to Jackson. The president had abused his executive power, as he should only veto legislation that sought innovations; the bank had already existed twice, and it had become a part of the American tradition, not a thing created upon a blank slate. Further, he stressed, Jackson’s self-identification with “the People” was one of the most dangerous assertions yet made in American history. Nothing Webster said, he himself realized, could exaggerate this point enough. If the president truly represented the People, the executive branch would soon overwhelm the other two branches of the federal government, thus destroying two generations of delicate work and balance. Only the House could rightly speak for the People.
The President is as much bound by the law as any private citizen and can no more contest its validity than any private citizen. He may refuse to obey the law, and so may a private citizen; but both do it at their own peril, and neither of them can settle the question of its validity. The President may say a law is unconstitutional, but he is not the judge. Who is to decide that question? The judiciary alone possesses this unquestionable and hitherto unquestioned right.
Webster decided not to address the specifics of Jackson’s arguments against the bank, justified, he thought, by the unworthiness of the arguments. The bank, Webster claimed, served the common good and thus served properly the republic. Finally, he noted with cutting sarcasm, Jackson must see himself as a new Louis XIV: “I AM THE STATE.”
3. At City Journal, Thom Nickels reports on the riots in the City of Brotherly Love. From the article:
According to the Philadelphia Police Department, 378 fires were set in the city and 246 commercial burglaries were committed during the unrest. At first, Mayor Jim Kenney and new police commissioner Danielle Outlaw blamed the fires and looting on a small group of outsiders, but they later had to eat their words. In fact, official arrest data showed that 181 of the arrested were from Philadelphia, while 46 came from outside the city (with 30 having no address). The worst of the rioting and looting occurred over three days, long enough to call into question Kenney’s contention that the agitators and looters were just a small band of troublemakers. Occupying a city and rendering police helpless are feats beyond the capacity of ragtag rejects.
I live on the outskirts of Fishtown, a section of the city touted by the New York Times several years ago as a revitalized urban paradise with chic restaurants, art galleries, grooming shops, and soy vegan cafes. Before its resettlement by migrating millennial Brooklynites and real estate moguls, Fishtown was home to working-class Irish, Italian, German, and Polish families who worked in nearby factories. Today, the factories are converted condos, but the children and grandchildren of those early factory workers still live in the rowhouse neighborhood and mix freely, if not always ecstatically, with their wealthier new neighbors.
On June 1, Fishtown made national headlines when a group of men carrying baseball bats and clubs opted to protect their neighborhood from the looters and anarchists who had trashed Center City. This vigilante group emerged following three days of media reporting that the “protest” was moving into neighborhoods like Germantown, Kensington, and West Philadelphia, along with reports of fires, blown-up ATM machines, blocked traffic, burned buildings, and threats of more violence. For three days, Philadelphians watched scenes of police officers running from rioters as patrol cars were destroyed or set on fire. One report even showed police officers scattering out of the looters’ way, appearing frightened.
4. At The American Conservative, Joanna Williams observers the Thought Police coming to arrest J.K. Rowling. From the commentary:
How did we get here? Let’s begin at the beginning. In March last year, researcher Maya Forstater lost her job at a London-based think tank for having expressed the view that people cannot change their biological sex. When the case came to court in December, the judge upheld her dismissal and described her views on sex and gender as “absolutist” and “incompatible with human dignity and the fundamental rights of others.”
It’s incredible that a woman can lose her livelihood simply for stating biological facts. Yet hardly anyone challenged this unprecedented attack on Forstater’s freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. J.K. Rowling was one of the few to speak out. The author tweeted: “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill.
This one tweet, this one small act of sisterly solidarity with a newly out-of-work woman, sparked a Twitter meltdown. Rowling was labelled a “TERF”—Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist—the go-to insult hurled at women who transgress new social norms established primarily by men. Not that long ago, it was considered grossly offensive to insult women by calling them derogatory names. Now, the hierarchy of victimhood has been transformed, and women—females—can be subjected to no end of abuse if it’s for the greater good of protecting males who, complete with penis, chest hair, and stubble, demand the world acknowledges they are women.
5. At Quillette, Jonathan Kay investigates the media’s social-justice meltdown. From the essay:
There’s a reason why it’s poets, writers, and editors who’ve gone into cancel-culture beast mode over the last week, and not, say, carpenters and plumbers. Unlike a table or a sink, the things we wordsmiths sell—political postures, controversial opinions, artistic styles, insights, purported moral truths—have no set value. Sometimes we publish things that get declared “stunning and brave,” while a colleague’s very similar offerings sink quickly into obscurity. Or vice versa. In the pre-social-media age, readers typically consumed our writings privately, often through longstanding print subscriptions. But that has now changed: The materials we write, read, edit, and publish act as personal brand signifiers whose moral value fluctuates wildly on the daily stock markets known as Twitter and Facebook. Even at the best of times, it’s an unstable system—because a single bad tweet can set off the equivalent of a bank run. So the temptation is always there to hype your own stock, or downgrade someone else’s, as a means to rally followers and punish enemies.
The reason the Times has lost its editorial moorings isn’t that social media is crazy and tribalistic. Social media has always been crazy and tribalistic. What’s changed is that the firewall between social media and real life has now broken down completely thanks to the pandemic lockdown. Since we’re all working from home, and dealing with co-workers only through digital means, the line between colleague and troll has blurred to nothingness.
It was one thing when Times staffers had to co-exist in a world of cubicles, water fountains, lunchrooms, and elevator chit chat. We all say we’re exasperated by office life, but the annoying rituals of communal work help remind us that our colleagues are actual human beings who tell stories about their dogs and put stick-it notes on their Tupperware. Canceling James Bennet, Real Human Being, would have been a lot harder than canceling @James_Bennet, the Slack-channel avatar. Certainly, it’s no coincidence that the Times’ descent into full-blown progressive cancel-culture social panic happened to coincide with the only period in the newspaper’s history when people who once rubbed elbows daily suddenly never saw each other for many months—just as it’s no coincidence that the editor of Bon Appetit magazine now has been forced to resign because of a Halloween photo from 17 years ago—that people already knew about.
6. At Gatestone Institute, Raymond Ibrahim reports on Turkey’s ratcheted-up war against Christians. From the piece:
Threatening and defacing churches is especially common. In early 2019, hate-filled graffiti — including “You Are Finished!” — was found on the Armenian Church of the Holy Mother of God in Istanbul. Commenting on it, an Armenian activist tweeted, “Every year, scores of hate attacks are being carried out against churches and synagogues.”
In late 2019, while shouting abuses and physical threats against Christians gathered at the Church of St. Paul in Antalya, a man said he “would take great pleasure in destroying the Christians, as he viewed them as a type of parasitism on Turkey.”
Most recently, on May 8, 2020, in Istanbul, a man tried to torch a church that had been repeatedly attacked with hate-filled graffiti, among other desecrations.
Rather than threaten or attack churches, Turkish authorities have the power simply to confiscate or close them (here, here, and here, for examples). In one instance, police, similarly to the marauders mentioned above, interrupted a baptismal ceremony while raiding and subsequently shutting down an unauthorized church. “Turkey does not have a pathway for legalization of churches,” the report noted.
When pretexts cannot be found, assailants sometimes resort to other tactics. In an apparent attempt to conceal the online presence of at least one church, for instance, authorities labeled its website “pornographic,” and blocked it. The ban was “horrible,” a church representative responded. “It’s a shame. It really pains us at having this kind of accusation when we have a high moral standard.”
Tomorrow (June 14) being Flag Day, and assuming that it is still legal and not a macroaggression to display and laud the Stars and Stripes, let this space be used to take note of one Robert James Monday, a.k.a. “Rick,” who graced Major League outfields for some 19 seasons, adorned by the uniforms of the Athletics, Cubs, and Dodgers, twice named to All Star teams (he was the NL’s starting centerfielder in 1978) and thrice playing in World Series. He compiled a solid .264 career batting average, with 244 home runs.
Monday made what many consider the greatest play ever made. It came on April 25, 1976, at Dodger Stadium, where Monday’s Cubs were playing a Sunday afternoon game disrupted in the bottom of the fourth inning — you have to love that it’s Vin Scully calling the game . . . “Wait a minute, there’s an animal loose, two of them, all right . . .” — by two dunderheads trying to burn an American Flag in the outfield. But it was not to happen: Before the punks could light a match on the lighter-fluid-soak material, Monday, a former Marine, swooped in from his centerfield position to save Old Glory. Watch the video, which includes Monday’s reflections on the event decades later. Monday had three hits and an RBI that day, but the Dodgers prevailed in 10 innings, 5–4.
A few non sequiturs, because we enjoy frivolity in these precincts: Monday was the last man to ever score a run on the home field for the Kansas City Athletics. That came on September 27, 1967, before a measly 5,325 fans at Municipal Stadium, as the As — bound the next season for Oakland — beat the White Sox 4–0. Monday scored the final run in the bottom of the sixth inning, scampering home on a passed ball by Chicago catcher J.C. Martin. He also scored the first run ever for the Athletics at their new home in Oakland in 1968, a solo homer in a 3–1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Who’d have thunk that a liberal kids’ book author, J.K. Rowling, would emerge as the exemplar of courage in this current cultural meltdown, this orgy of mea culpary? Pray maybe for God’s grace, for strength, so that more will be like her — including maybe the person in the mirror. It may not be a fight or a challenge you asked for, but it might be one you cannot avoid. There are far worse things than taking a social-media punch, than being unfriended.
God’s Blessings for the Preservation of this Nation as One Worthy of Him,
Jack Fowler, who can be told that he is being unfriended, and even unacquaintanced, via missives sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.